According to research conducted in 2020, 37% of Coventry’s children were living in poverty, and 14% of residents lived in neighbourhoods in the top 10% most deprived in England1. School holidays in particular can be challenging for such families who struggle to afford to feed their children, let alone keep them busy with activities and days out.
Coventry Rugby Club are at the heart of their local community and are aware of the very real impact this level of poverty has on children across the city. So, in a groundbreaking initiative, they set up Project:500 in 2019, with Charter Savings Bank as proud sponsor, which aims to use rugby and sport to bring positivity and hope to disadvantaged children across the city.
More than just about feeding children (although that is an important part of it), Project:500 originally aimed to give 500 disadvantaged and disaffected children the chance to learn through sport, although it has since surpassed this number.
The 2 day event runs during the school holidays, with the August 2022 camp coinciding with the Commonwealth Games and offering the children a chance to play some of the sports featured in the Games, including netball, cricket, hockey and rugby.
During the day the attendees received education around subjects such as nutrition, exercise and wellness, took part in sports sessions with members of the community coaching team and had the chance to meet members of Coventry’s First Team.
While the activity and coaching element means the children got to go outdoors, improve their health and work with other kids in a team environment, they also went home with full bellies.
On the day, they could choose from a variety of cereals and fruits for breakfast, and had a hot lunch followed by fruit and dessert. Heartbreakingly, some children asked for seconds and even thirds, indicating how little they may have eaten previously.
They were also sent home with a hamper, equal to one week’s worth of fresh food and veg for their whole family, generously donated by fellow club sponsor Koffmann’s with help from Morrisons supermarket.
Paul Whitlock, Group Managing Director of Savings at OSB Group, said: “Everyone here at Charter Savings Bank feels very strongly about this initiative and supports Coventry Rugby with their amazing community outreach work. It’s very humbling that through our partnership we’re able to provide food hampers to children and their families to help see them through some extremely difficult times.”
With the current cost of living crisis, access to nutritional food and sports could be limited even further, but initiatives such as Project:500 are a step in the right direction to inspiring children to build a better future and provide them with role models they can look up to.
Richard Meacham, Community Outreach at Coventry Rugby, said: “Project 500 has become such a lifeline to some families. We’ve felt so proud that the Commonwealth Games have been held across this region and it has helped us to instil into the young people accessing this project that they can do whatever they want in life and that there should be no barriers to where they want to go.”